Wine Cellar: Small is beautiful

Avital Goldner has started his own garage-winery in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood.

Avital Goldner 88 248 (photo credit: Ofer Zemach)
Avital Goldner 88 248
(photo credit: Ofer Zemach)
By bringing home a cluster of grapes bought at the local market and crushing them with the help of his five kids, Avital Goldner started his own garage-winery in Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood. I've always admired small wine producers, so it came as a pleasant surprise when hearing of one operating a skip away from my home. Known as boutique wineries, micro-wineries or garage wineries, small producers often don't even have their own vineyards and usually rely on grapes purchased in small quantities from highly reputable sources. These tiny operations are usually making wine as a craft, rather than industrial production, and generally (but not always) can afford to produce high-quality wines by putting more care and attention into their winemaking process. A scribe by profession, Goldner started his Katamon winery as a dream, which like many others began with a love of wine. He spent numerous days reading books and talking to winemakers, especially with Eli Ben-Zaken of the nearby Castel boutique winery, and, of course, experimenting with winemaking. Soon after, he learned that wine was much more than a beverage. For him it was an experience that turned into a passion, and that passion led him to establish his own winery. Purchasing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Gush Etzion winery, Goldner made the 300 bottles of the inaugural 2002 vintage in the basement of his apartment building. For the rather shy man from Katamon, it was eye-opening. Experiences and insights reaped along the way have played a significant part in shaping his personal winemaking style. The combination of passion for wine and artistry continued to spark Goldner's imagination and positive feedback from family and friends were the passport to his adventure. Further consultation with Ben-Zaken led him to buy oak barrels from a noted French producer, and two stainless steel fermentation vats. In search of fine grapes, which according to Goldner were a major factor in his wine's quality, he chose fruit from the vineyards of Havat Tal outside Beit Shemesh. On a recent visit to the damp basement where the wine is aged in barrels, I had the chance to taste some, all of which is kosher. We began with a barrel tasting of 100 percent Chardonnay 2007 from Havat Tal. The oak influence obviously contributes to the structure of this wine and somewhat masks the fruit. The wine has subtle melon and hazelnut aromas, with a good mineral quality. Another white tasted was Emerald Riesling 2006 made as a blend of Rhein and Johannesberg Riesling. Aged for six months in oak, this dry wine features crisp grapefruit and apricot aromas, but is a little short on acidity. The most notable red was the Merlot 2005, of which only 560 bottles were produced. A blend of 90% Merlot and rest of Cabernet Franc, it was aged for 12 months in oak and for another year in the bottle. This is a soft and fruity red wine with lovely concentrated plum fruit and good structure. The wine is available for purchase at the winery for NIS 97. For information or to arrange a visit, call Avital Goldner at (054) 633-2206.